‘Heritage & Education’: Dr Tim Copeland gives Keynote Speech at International Conference

Dr Tim Copeland is an archaeological historian, author of books such as Life in a Roman Fortress (2014) and Roman Gloucestershire (2010). He is also a Research Fellow at the University of Gloucestershire.

Tim Copeland gave the keynote speech at the International Conference “Education as a Method of Improving Quality of Heritage Management in a 21st Century Democratic State,” which was held in the UNESCO town of Telč from 24th to 26th September 2015. The conference was organised by the Faculty of Education at Charles University in Prague and the National Heritage Institute of Czech Republic. The issues underlining the conference title were the development of a one-time communist dictatorship into a democratic state with a new identity, acquired through the development of a new approach to its past. The title of the opening speech was ‘Grandad Tim, will they still have heritage when I grow up?’ based on Teddy’s remarks after seeing a ruined castle in Wales. The lecture explored the environmental and social threats that have been foreseen for the 21st century and the place and importance in teaching about the past to ameliorate some of these scenarios. While the study of the past in all its forms could have a direct influence on areas such as genuine democracy emerging from authoritarian regimes, shared values and new security strategies reducing ethnic conflicts and terrorism, humanities education also has a major role in making people more intelligent, knowledgeable, and wise enough to address future global challenges, especially through influencing decision making by politicians, economists and scientists during a period of unprecedented accelerating change which demands improved foresight.

Telc from St James's Church tower
Telc from St James’s Church tower

Other papers in the three day conference focused on developing ‘heritage’ from ‘patrimione’ – the French concept of national pride for the past – to ‘heritage’ and what this might involve. This was especially significant in that there was no term for ‘heritage’ as it would be used in the UK in the Czech language. Particular issues were how Czech ‘heritage’ might be shared with other countries, the varied situations in other European countries and how the cultural heritage might be ‘unlocked’ in terms of teaching and learning, including some very impressive demonstrations of information technology. Throughout the conference the emphasis was very much on the ‘practical’ without post-modernist approaches being mentioned once!

 

The main outcomes were that any development of ‘heritage’ in the Czech Republic would have to have two parts. Firstly, the public presentation of historic monuments and culture, and secondly, an academic research base to further knowledge of archaeology, up-standing historic structures and landscapes. This was very impressive as it mirrors English Heritage’s division into the commercial aspects while still maintaining the brand name, and Historic England which is the division dealing with academic research. It was very clear that the ‘glitzy’ presentation of some of the gross commercialism associated with some of the UK heritage presentations such as monument chocolates, erasers and pencils had to be avoided in the developments in the Czech Republic and that serious educational approaches at all levels from holiday visitors to schools and universities were to take precedence. The organizers also emphasized that the other aspects of evidence from the past, tangible, intangible, movable, unmovable, etc., should be given an equal emphasis.

Dr Time Copeland on the Showcasing History trip to Stonehenge in 2015.
Dr Time Copeland (and a student) on the Showcasing History trip to Stonehenge in 2015.

Decision makers and administrators along with academics and practitioners seem to consider the present situation in the Czech Republic as being a ‘clean slate’ on which to build educational approaches to the various types of evidence for the past which are meaningful to all sectors of society. In many ways, I hope that they never invent a term that is a direct translation of our term ‘heritage’ and find another word to express their need for a past and identity unique in the Brave New World in which they find themselves.

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